What is autism?
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that is often characterized by varying degrees of struggle with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, sensory processing, and restricted or repetitive behaviors.
When can it be detected?
Some children start exhibiting signs just after a few months from birth, while others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives and then they start displaying symptoms. Thus, there are no definite age brackets for the symptoms to show.
What are the general symptoms of autism?
The range of symptoms shown by autistic kids can be too varying to detect at times.
About 40% of kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) don’t talk at all, and between 25% and 30% develop some language skills during infancy but then lose them later. Some autistic children develop speech later in life.
The usual symptoms include the following:
- Displaying repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling.
- Children tend to get attached to certain activities or objects or routines, and a shift or change might really upset them.
- Delayed speech and language skills are the most common symptoms. Often they speak in a flat, robotic voice, or singsong voice.
- They usually have short attention spans and find it difficult to focus on a particular topic.
- Generally, they are impervious to sarcasm or humor.
- Sometimes children show extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound.
- Aggressive behavior, both with self and others, is common.
Genetical and environmental factors combine to cause autism. Risk factors include certain infections or consumption of alcohol, smoking or usage of drugs during pregnancy.
There is increasing suspicion that autism is a complex disorder whose core aspects have distinct causes that often co-occur.
ASD arises due to interactions among multiple genes, the environment, and epigenetic factors. Many genes have been associated with autism through sequencing the genomes of affected individuals and their parents.
Synaptic dysfunction is also suspected to be a cause of autism. Some rare mutations may lead to autism by disrupting some synaptic pathways, such as those involved with cell adhesion
Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism.
Autism affects the amygdala, cerebellum, and many other parts of the brain.
Unlike many other disorders, autism does not have a clear unifying mechanism at either the molecular, cellular, or system level. It is not known whether autism is a few disorders caused by mutations converging on a few common molecular pathways, or is a large set of disorders with contrasting mechanisms.
Is there a cure for autism?
To be honest, there is as such no cure for autism, but some treatments are definitely there.
The common treatment options for autism usually involve intensive courses of applied behavior analysis (ABA).
Some experimental studies, like stem cell transfusion therapy, blocking production of a particular protein seem promising.
According to some scientists, it is difficult to develop a particular cure for autism, since the disorder represents a culmination of underlying causes. Without one particular cause, there can be no single cure.
Going by statistics, some autistic children effectively grow out of the disorder as they age. A 2015 study of 569 children living in the Bronx, New York, found that approximately 7 % whose symptoms were resolved to a point where an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis was no longer appropriate.
It’s not all a bed of roses even for this minuscule group whose ASD symptoms self-resolve. The issues they experience with communication and social disability can leave them with cognitive and behavioral problems that last well beyond the course of the disorder. Of the 38 patients in the Bronx study who lost their ASD diagnosis, only 3 were found to no longer have any symptoms, 92 % had residual learning or behavioral problems from delayed development.
On the brighter side, over time, about 10 % of ASD patients will show positive development by their mid-teens. Although still formally diagnosed with ASD, they are able to improve their verbal and daily living skills considerably.
A paper published in 1987 suggests that social contact is the best way of obtaining positive results in kids with the disorder. Meeting new people represents a break in pattern and routine and often requires the kind of social sensitivity that those with ASD struggle with.
Although it is not exactly a cure for autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a valuable step along the path to a cure for at least some ASD patients. For the rest, ABA can at least lead to improvements in quality of life and individual skills while the quest for an actual cure continues.
But it has to be kept in mind that each child or adult with autism is unique and, so, each autism intervention plan should be tailored to address specific needs.Intervention can involve behavioral treatments, medicines or